Lean Startup 101: Interview with Carl Jones, Managing Director at Sunderland startup Technically Compatible.
After the recent Lean Startup 101 course we caught up with Carl Jones, Managing Director at Technically Compatible, to chat about his interest in Lean Startup and how his company is applying Lean methods to product and business development.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company, Technically Compatible?
No problem, Technically Compatible is a start-up offshoot of The Test Factory Group. The Test Factory provides high profile customised assessment solutions to mainly bluechip clients and has a presence globally.
Technically Compatible is a SaaS product that makes it really easy to build a customised test for any given IT role as part of the recruitment process. The idea came from our own headaches experienced when recruiting our own developers, where we wasted a lot of time interviewing candidates who on paper looked great, but in practice didn’t have the skills we needed. Existing solutions on the market were all pretty clunky and expensive, so we thought we’d disrupt the market with our own product that made skills assessment cost effective and easy.
I come from a sales background and have worked with the TTF group in a few roles before being asked to head up Technically Compatible. Whilst I have responsibility for the strategic side of the business, I still like to get my hands dirty with sales and the odd coffee run!
Outside of work I’m a Durham University MBA Candidate, enjoying playing Sunday League football for a local side and spend my winters skiing in beautiful Colorado!
2. How did you first hear about Lean Startup and what got you interested?
I actually first heard of Lean Startup from our Group CEO who was adamant that I should read Eric Reis’ book when I took the reins here. As with most of his advice, I took it with a pinch of salt (Sorry Kev!), but saw the book when sitting around in an airport somewhere in the US and thought I’d pick it up. I was hooked from the offset and the main reason was that I could see a whole plethora of ways we could implement the methodology into TC straight away.
3. Technically Compatible brought a team of four along to the recent Lean Startup in a Day course – what did you learn?
Out of the 4 of us I was the only one that had any real knowledge of the Lean movement, and I was also the only non-techie. I was keen for my Head of Technology to come along as it is he and I who are most involved in the product development side of things. So I think the majority of learning was for him and the others in terms of the Lean way of developing ideas, building proveable hypothesis and rolling forward from there.
For me, the main thing I took away from the Lean North East event was the importance of forcing yourself into an alternate way of thinking. When we were asked to consider a radical business model which had to involve giving away our product for free, as opposed to anything else that we’d considered, it really engaged your inner innovator and proved a cool way of looking outside of the box.
4. How do you see the company implementing what you learned in your day to day business?
Like most startups, TC has had its fair share of challeneges. Not least of those has been in identifying our best route to market and understanding what direction we should take our product development. When considering a new way of doing things, or building a new feature, we now implement Lean methods to ensure the work is worthwhile.
We’re also making use of the Validation Board when looking at where best to point our resource rifle.
5. What business benefits do you hope to achieve by implementing Lean Startup methods?
The main benefit that we’re hopeful of achieving is quite simple; to find the most efficient way of growing our business. We know there is a big market, and we know what our competitors are doing, but in an effort to compete we could quite easily burn through a lot of cash heading in the wrong direction if we’re not careful.
6. If other North East entrepreneurs and company directors are considering finding out more about Lean Startup, what would you say to them?
Well for a start I’d encourage anyone with an interest to drop me a line or connect on LinkedIn, I’m always happy to talk through and learn wherever I can as well.
Other than that I can highly recommend getting involved with the local Lean communities which are all over the world now. Lean North East is ours and I think it’s well worth going along to their events throughout the year.
Oh, and buy The Lean Startup!
7. And finally, what does the future hold for Technically Compatible?
We’re confident we have a really great business based around a great product which is going to change the way people assess IT skills. We’re about to push our experiments overseas to the US, Canada and Australia and on the back of that we want to grow as aggressively as possible, all the while remaining lean of course!
Big thanks to Carl for taking the time to chat with us.